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Largo to add giant water slide to Southwest Pool

FreeStyle pitches the Hippo as the world’s largest inflatable water slide. Riders are to pay $5 for the day; summer campers, $3.

Photo courtesy of FreeStyle Slides

FreeStyle pitches the Hippo as the world’s largest inflatable water slide. Riders are to pay $5 for the day; summer campers, $3.

LARGO — The area near the Southwest Pool will soon feature 115 feet of slippery fun.

The city plans to install an inflatable Hippo slide for the summer season.

The Highland Family Aquatics Center, with its slides and splash park, offers plenty of activities. The city hopes to create some of that excitement at Southwest, which has a competition-style pool.

"The slide provides that element of fun that could make Southwest Pool a much more inviting place for the neighborhood and for the summer camps that go there," said Joan Byrne, director of the city's Recreation, Parks and Arts Department.

And it could provide a much-needed revenue stream, Byrne and other officials said.

Largo expects the slide to be in place in a couple of weeks, just in time for summer vacation, and to keep it there through October.

FreeStyle Slides of St. Petersburg will provide and install the slide and train workers to use it.

Largo will monitor the slide and spend about $1,500 for temporary 6-foot fencing and an electrical line.

City commissioners gave the city manager the okay Tuesday to enter into a contract with FreeStyle if he and the city attorney find the agreement acceptable.

The city plans to charge swimmers $5 to ride the slide for the day and summer campers $3 to ride it on their visits to the pool at 13120 Vonn Road. FreeStyle will get 75 percent of the revenue and the city will get the rest.

The 115-foot-long slide won't be on the pool deck. The 30-foot-high attraction will be installed on the turf north of the pool area. Byrne said the slide will be monitored by one volunteer and one staff person. And workers will be rotated from other positions at the pool.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes said he was enthused about the arrangement, which he said had little risk. "This kind of stuff just makes my tail wag," Holmes said.

But a couple of commissioners hesitated.

Mayor Pat Gerard questioned the safety of having workers who routinely watch the pool monitor the slide. She also questioned Byrne's claims that her department is short staffed.

"What are these people doing now that they have four or five hours that they can go sit on top of the slide, collectively," Gerard said.

And Vice Mayor Robert Murray, who voted against the arrangement, was especially concerned about youngsters feeling left out.

"Some families cannot afford to give three extra dollars to their children during summer camp each week," said Murray. And that could create a problem for a "child stuck in the pool watching all of their friends going up and down the slide."

Commissioner Woody Brown requested information about the company's safety record.

Company president and CEO Stephen Philp said his company, in business since 2002, has developed slides at about 100 locations.

"We have not had any serious injuries on any of our slides," he said.

There were a couple of issues involving people who claimed to have been injured, but no manufacturing problem was proved, he said.

In 2008, the company settled a suit involving a woman who claimed that about eight years ago she injured her knee after her foot got caught on some loose vinyl on a slide behind the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, court records show.

A similar slide is an attraction on Clearwater Beach. And Treasure Island officials recently approved a slide for their public beach.

The slides are quite popular, Philp said.

"This is a new market that we're targeting, city parks," Philp said. "All of the other markets that we're in, the slides do phenomenally."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Largo to add giant water slide to Southwest Pool 05/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 4:52pm]
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